An increasing number of tenants in Dorset are using their legal rights to fight back against extremely high rent prices. These tenants are becoming fed up with price hikes within the private renting sector, and are giving landlords an ultimatum: Cut your rent prices in half, or get nothing at all.
Legally a landlord cannot simply evict if a tenant refuses to pay their rent, as there is a lengthy court process which a landlord must follow. In many cases this can take upto 18 months or more, during which time the tenant can legally live rent-free in the property. Only then if a landlord gets awarded a possession order by the court can the eviction process begin. Also, it is important to note that even after the possession order has been granted, only a court bailiff can execute the eviction adding more time and costs to the landlord, during which time a landlord cannot harass the tenant or make their life difficult in any way, otherwise the landlord risks committing a criminal offence. Shelter has some good on advice on dealing with harassment from landlords.
The advantage for tenants is knowing that the money saved by refusing to pay rent can add up to a considerable amount of savings which can be used elsewhere. Private landlords are beginning to accept that they have to decide whether to simply adjust their prices to that which a tenant can genuinely afford, or to begin the more costly eviction process which carries a much higher risk. It has been known for landlords to be forced to sell their property, where the tenant is then able to make the purchase and ends up paying much less on the monthly mortgage repayment when compared to the previous rent.
Whilst a landlord may be able to obtain a court judgement for outstanding rent, they are often very reluctant to do this because the chances of recovery are very minimal as a private individual has legal rights which protect them against enforcement agents. “It is a risk well worth taking” says one tenant who wishes to remain anonymous, “If I do get evicted because I cant afford my rent, I know that the local authority then has an obligation to provide emergency accommodation and social housing regardless of my credit status”. Shelter has advice on contacting the council when facing eviction.
It is understood that the cost of private renting can be three or four times that of social housing rent for the same type of property. With housing at a premium, private landlords are often buying up properties in order to profiteer by charging extortionate rent fees.
“I did not know that a landlord can get arrested, and face a criminal record for harassment,” said another tenant. “It gives me peace of mind knowing this, and I will certainly be negotiating harshly with my landlord if they dont stop this price gouging and trying to hold me to ransom just to keep a roof over my head. I just cant afford it”
For those who are homeowners looking to sell their property and dont want it to ever end up on the rental market, there is the option of putting a restrictive covenant on a property which can simply ban the sale of a house for private rental purposes, aswell as banning the use of it as an air b&b, and/or second home – restricting the use only to that of a main private dwelling by the homeowner. Doing so will ensure that when a property is sold, only genuine people looking to purchase as their main home will be able to buy. There can be serious penalties if such a covenant is breached.